Ever caught procrastinating in the morning, only to feel overwhelmed at the end of the day?
These two fluctuating states trick you into thinking you can “make” more time for yourself. When at best, you can only organize it.
This is exactly what the Pomodoro Technique intends: break work into manageable chunks to keep your mind sharp and ready.
Best Pomodoro apps to try out
Because of the method’s simplicity, you only need a kitchen timer and a notebook or piece of paper to keep track of your pomodoros. That’s it. Nothing less, nothing more. This doesn’t give you enough insight into timesheets, the nature of your interruptions, or how you progress on each task.
To automate the system and customize it to fit your workflow in terms of session lengths, ticking sounds, alerts, and so on, try out these Pomodoro apps:
Paymo Pomodoro (Mac, Windows, Linux)
Paymo Pomodoro Timer – Desktop Widget
Best for: using the Pomodoro technique right within a project management software
Check this article and see how easy it is to use Pomodoro in Paymo.
The Paymo Pomodoro app is very close to the authentic Pomodoro experience. At its core, Paymo is one of the few project management software with native time tracking and probably among the best that allows you to track time using the Pomodoro technique—make sure to update your Desktop Widget to the latest version. Check this list of time-tracking software for yourself and see how other apps fare.
The interface is cleaner than most apps of its kind, featuring a default 25 minutes timer with 5 minutes and 15 minutes breaks. Of course, you can change their duration and choose whether to enable sounds when a work session or break ends from the Pomodoro settings.
Paymo’s timer respects the Pomodoro technique®, displaying 4 Pomodoros under the timer that form a healthy focus session. The long break will kick in after these are completed. If you stop the timer midway, though, the visual progress on the current tomato will be lost. Don’t worry; the time entry will still be registered under Timesheets for accurate records.
Pomodoro timer – Paymo
Time reports make it possible to analyze past work sessions, but perhaps Paymo’s most significant advantage is its client and project orientation. This means you can turn all time entries into an invoice and bill clients at the end of the month from the same platform while still practicing the Pomodoro technique®.
- Free, up to 10 users, 250-time entries, and three-time reports
- Small Office (starts at $9.95/user/month), unlimited time entries, and time reports
- Business (starts at $15.79/user/month), unlimited time entries, and time reports
Start tracking time effectively with our free Paymo trial.
PomoDone (Web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android)
PomoDone Desktop App
Best for: using the Pomodoro Technique with a separate task or project management software
PomoDone connects with a wide variety of project management tools, allowing you to directly import tasks and time entries from the ones that already have a time-tracking module – like Paymo.
Tip: If you’re looking for remote, cloud-based, all-in-one project tools that already have employee time tracking software with high reviews, here’s a list of project management tools or work management software. These usually include reporting and invoicing and tackle all kinds of client work. Using such tools far outweighs the learning curve and possible adoption resistance.
You can add your own tasks directly into the app if you don’t use one. Then clock in using their Pomodoro timer. A pretty robust one, I have to say, since you can customize your own session lengths, set auto breaks, and add up an interruption note, so you don’t have to rely on a notebook anymore.
PomoDone also comes with a great Chrome Extension that embeds the Pomodoro tracker in specific project management apps and blocks distracting websites if you know yourself to be a slippery procrastinator (I sure am sometimes).
- Lite plan ($2.29/month), with three integrations, included
- Ultimate plan ($4.01/month), with unlimited integrations and unlimited log access
Focus Booster (Web, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android)
Focus Booster Mobile App
Best for: freelancers who do client-related work
Focus Booster seems to be a Pomodoro app more oriented towards freelancers and agency owners since you can choose which client to track time for. All Pomodoro sessions get automatically logged under a timesheet area, with the possibility of creating manual entries on your own. The best part? You can export them into a CSV format, so it’s much easier to invoice your client at the end of a month or project.
Data nerds, you’re in for a treat. In terms of analytics, you have complete visibility into how you’ve spent your time over a certain period, thanks to the Reports Dashboard. This one also includes stats regarding your profitability and percentage of tracked time per client, so you know which client brings in more cash.
I also like how you can save incomplete sessions and resume them when ready, a feature that will serve first-time Pomodoro users and hybrid fans well.
- Free, but limited to 20 sessions
- Individual plan ($2.99/month), with 200 sessions and extended settings
- Unlimited plan ($4.99/month), with unlimited sessions and invoicing
Focus Keeper (iOS)
Focus Keeper tracker and chart views
Best for iOS users
The Focus Keeper Pomodoro app features a red background that lets you change the length of the Pomodoro through a simple swipe (breaks have a blue one). And a ticking sound to know it is focus time.
You can also set a goal regarding the number of sessions you wish to accomplish each day, which I find very helpful. Too bad you can’t name them to know what you’re working on. The app has a notification center to remind you about your session if you browse other apps on your phone.
There are many ways of customizing this app, from different themes to sounds and alarm levels for each session and short and long breaks. Charts over the past 14 and 30 days help you monitor your productivity, limited to only the past three days with the free version.
The Pro one brings ten premium ticking sounds to get more productive or relaxed, depending on the moment of the Pomodoro cycle, and a complete view of your stats.
- Free, limited charts for the past three days
- Pro ($1.99/month), unlimited charts plus ten ticking sounds
Focus To-Do: Pomodoro Timer & To-Do List (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android)
Focus To-Do Mobile App
Best for Android users
As the name states, Focus To-Do is an all-in-one Pomodoro timer and to-do list. Reasonably practical, as you can create projects to categorize sessions better and set task priorities for a clear picture of what to work on first. It’s unclear how many projects I’m allowed to create since the app introduces you to a free trial of the premium version.
Other than that, I like the “Forest” feature, which gamifies the whole user experience and lets you contribute with your actions in growing a plant. If you don’t complete the daily challenges, you guessed it, the plant dies. An exciting way to build up motivation and stick with the Pomodoro Technique.
This Pomodoro timer also includes a trend chart of all your completed to-dos and statistics on how you’ve spent your time on each project.
- Premium (£2.99/3 months), with unlimited projects, app whitelist, daily/weekly/monthly report, repeating tasks, reminder tasks
Marinara Timer (Web)
Shareable links in the Marinara Timer
Best for: teams who want to share their online Pomodoro timers
If you’re looking for a simple Pomodoro app that doesn’t require any setup or signup, then Marinara Timer is the way to go. Just open it in a separate web browser tab and pin it there.
In terms of options, you’re lucky enough. The team behind this app thinks the Pomodoro method is a bit too rigid; that’s why they made three timers available:
- A traditional Pomodoro with the 25-5 minutes cycles
- Custom one, where you can change the length of each work session and rename them
- Kitchen one, where you set a time limit and let it run backward
What sets it apart, though, is the ability to share your timer through a URL. To avoid stepping on each other’s feet and ensure no timer is stopped by accident, there are two links, an admin and a viewer link. A cautious feature indeed! If you wish to synchronize work with your team and take a break together or share your Pomodoro clock with a manager.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to use an app, you can just run a Pomodoro timer on Youtube while you work or study. The only disadvantage is that you won’t have historical data on your sessions.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
Francisco Cirillo invented the Pomodoro Technique in the late ’80s to study more efficiently. He used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato (“Pomodoro” in Italian), forced himself to study for precisely 25 minutes, then took a break of 5 minutes. And it worked!
Cirillo discovered that to stay focused, you have to work with time, not against it. To follow his advice, divide your projects and tasks into short sprints and reward yourself with regular breaks to recharge before the next sprint. This will boost your productivity and keep the creative juices flowing without relying too much on your willpower.
Is this it? Frankly, yes. And that’s why the Pomodoro Technique is so attractive. You only need a timer and a piece of paper to keep track of your pomodoros and focus single-mindedly on a task.
I’d argue that the length of a work session and break can vary since it takes approximately between 5 and 15 minutes to achieve a flow state.
But here’s what the primary process looks like:
1. Choose a task you want to work on.
2. Set the Pomodoro timer to 25 minutes, the standard Pomodoro duration.
3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro timer rings, then put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
4. Take a short break of 5 minutes to do something non-work-related, like stretching or making a call.
5. Take a more extended break of 20-30 minutes after every four pomodoros. This will help you regroup your thoughts and rest before the next batch of pomodoros.
How the Pomodoro Technique works
Notice a couple of things here. You need to approximate how many pomodoros it takes to finish a task. This information is not readily accessible, but you should get the hang of it through some trial and error.
You also need to set up a timetable. Block your most important pomodoros for when you’re most creative (for me, it’s the afternoon), and leave the rest for when you tend to get distracted. The point is to have a clear limit and motivate yourself enough to push things forward, as well as a clear boundary between work and spare time.
As for the Pomodoro, know that it is a non-negotiable time unit. This means that whenever an emergency or colleague bumps in with a request, you have to end the Pomodoro right then or protect it from outside distractions until completed. You can usually get by telling your colleagues to reach out in 10 minutes. Otherwise, use the “inform, negotiate, schedule, call back” approach proposed by Cirillo:
- Inform the other person that you’re in the middle of something important.
- Negotiate with them a time to address the issue.
- Schedule it.
- Call back or give them a nudge when the Pomodoro is over.
For distractions that are internal by nature as a new idea or article to read, write it down on your paper and proceed with your work until the Pomodoro timer rings.
The benefits of using the Pomodoro Technique
To get a taste of how your life will look like after using the Pomodoro Technique, here are a few benefits to consider:
Improved concentration power
Not all of us can focus for extended periods of time. But everyone can make a little effort to put their heads down for 25 minutes, work, and take a break after.
A couple of researchers discovered that brief breaks improve the overall concentration power or vigilance, as they call it. They reset it, allowing you to start with a clean slate, much like the bonus parts in most video games.
The Pomodoro Technique rests on the same principle. After each Pomodoro, take full advantage of your break to recharge and keep your mind fresh for the following work session. You’ll reduce the number of mistakes caused by a lack of concentration and avoid burnout in the long run.
Decreased back pain
As cliche as it may sound, sitting is the new smoking. Ever wondered why everyone is so obsessed with making 10,000 steps each day? I’m referring to the health risks associated with excessive sitting, like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. According to this study, they can’t be compensated by occasional leisure activities even if they exceed the minimum level of physical activity recommended.
In this context, the Pomodoro method becomes your greatest ally for slipping in more movement throughout the day. Use the five-minute break to do a stretch, fill up your water bottle, or chat with a coworker in the lobby area. Your back and shoulders will thank you later.
Get rid of the perfectionist mindset.
This is the creator’s curse, also known as Parkinson’s Law, which I talked about in another article. According to it, work expands to fill the time available for completion. Simply put, if you have to complete a one-hour task in two days, you’ll probably take the full two days. That’s because perfection sets in, making you fine-tune the task until the very end.
By all means, do what you must to create your best work. But don’t get stuck in endless revisions, and ship it! Use the strict time limit of a Pomodoro as a race to get things done and free up more time for other creative endeavors.
Are Pomodoro apps for everyone?
No, not really. The method is best suited for creatives, those who need to ship work and have deadlines in place for them: designers, developers, copywriters, and so on. For them, the boxed sprints might catalyze productivity while also ensuring they don’t waste too much time and effort on trivial things.
Using a Pomodoro timer is not advisable when you are engaged in fast-paced projects where changes can occur at any minute. Or when you require a lot of input from others, like a team leader or sales ops manager.
But what about if you’re a customer support rep or someone who has to do continuous work as it comes in? You can still hack the method and run a few pomodoros back-to-backs until you finish the self-imposed target: 50 tickets in one hour, 30 emails in under 30 minutes, you name it. Do a break, then pick up work from where you left it. It’s as simple as that.
If you are a freelancer or own a small business, Pomodoro apps can help your employees keep track of their time. And those time entries add up. At the end of the workweek, you have the necessary timesheets to create invoices for free. We’ve tested and reviewed the best invoicing software for small businesses in 2023 if you need such a module in your work. Try an invoice generator if you want a simple tool for your small business.
To learn what is a digital invoice and understand the invoicing process and mistakes to avoid, read our invoicing guide.
How does the Pomodoro Technique work with other productivity methods
A Pomodoro focuses more on doing tasks promptly than planning them. That’s why it’s better to combine it with other productivity methods. It’s fundamental to time tracking, primarily if you work in a team and want everybody on board with their tasks.
Like the Getting Things Done (GTD) method, use it to process and organize work, then rely on the Pomodoro Technique to get things done. It also works well with the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to prioritize tasks before actually doing them, as well as the Kanban method, which relies on continuous delivery and improvement of your workflow. Cirillo also encourages this practice and insists on spending the first and last 5 minutes of a Pomodoro session to recap and review work. For improvement purposes, again.
Note: Don’t overdo this part, or else you’ll ruin the simplicity provided by the Pomodoro method.
With the existing theory and the best Pomodoro apps, you should already be able to use the method on your own. Yes, it will take some time to get the hang of it, but you can only reap its benefits if you try it firsthand. Whether you’re a project manager or a freelancer or student managing personal projects, the Pomodoro technique is a great method to get things done.
Note: If you’re wondering how to transition into project management or what does it take to become a project manager, read this guide along with examples and advice you can follow.
Before we part away, remember that the Pomodoro method is just that – a way for you to get into the zone and recharge your energy with regular breaks. If you happen to be halfway through your work and the Pomodoro timer has ringed, stop it, continue your task, and take a break only after you’ve finished it.
Under all conditions, don’t try to push it if it doesn’t work for you. To put it in Ryan Holiday’s words:
What we need is something sustainable. Something balanced. Something deliberate without being forced. Purposeful without being obsessed with productivity.